David Litts

24 Litts“When the Air Force launched its first suicide-prevention program, there was a lot of debate about whether or not it was even possible to reduce suicide through this type of an effort,” according to David Litts.  “A lot of people, including mental health practitioners, were skeptical.  But over a six-year period, the suicide rate dropped by one-third.”

The Air Force Suicide Prevention Initiative was not based on a series of clinical interventions.  Instead, it effected a significant culture change of attention, caring and belief through the following core elements:

  • Strong commitment from top leadership demonstrated through consistent and effective communication;
  • Skills and information training on suicide intervention for all Air Force members, varying in intensity based upon rank and level of responsibility;
  • Creating the first privileged communication for suicidal personnel who are under investigation; and
  • Encouraging the responsibility of all Air Force members to care for one another — “buddy care.”